Running an airline is a difficult business. Costs are high, service expectations are immense and competitions are intense. I’ve always admired airlines for their operational efficiency and ability to work within narrow profit margins. And it’s not even just about services up on the air nowadays. The war between airlines has spread from within the cabins right down to the airport, specifically the airline lounges, with food taking one of the front lines.
I recently had the opportunity to take a tour of Virgin Atlantic’s Hong Kong clubhouse that had been revamped less than a year ago. Elevated to a second floor and overlooking gate 36 in Terminal 1, the clubhouse is an exclusive area to Virgin Atlantic's Upper Class passengers (think in-between First Class and Business Class) and people with premium statuses on certain frequent-flier programs. The design of the clubhouse is modern but minimalistic, utilizing lots of dark wood and ambient lighting in its indoor area and a garden theme at its balcony with plants placed throughout the open space creating a more spacious feel.
The clubhouse provides all the amenities that you would expect like comfortable sofas with TV and a full range of office equipment, but nothing much in particular to write home about… until you try their food and drinks. The clubhouse offers a fairly comprehensive menu that covers everything from breakfast to nibbles and full main dishes, pleasantly complemented with servers well acquainted with their menu and accommodating of every request.
The drinks are...well, unbeatable. On top of the fact that they have a fully-stocked open bar with an impressive cocktail list, the airline has also recently teamed up with Quinary to ramp up their drinks menu even more. Three signature cocktails from the bar that’s been ranked 39th in the World's 50 best bars will be offered in the clubhouse’s drinks menu. Quinary's accolade isn’t undeserved in my opinion but if you’re unconvinced, try the Oolong Tea Collins for example which seamlessly fuses homemade oolong tea cordial with vodka and soda to create a cunningly easy to drink concoction that will have you downing three of them before you even know it. The Barbados Heritage with triple-sec, drambuie, absinthe and chocolate bitters is a surprisingly fantastic combination and comes out both smooth and spicy.
Oolong Tea Collins
The clubhouse has a limited but definitely finely designed and made menu that covers both Asian and Western dishes. For starters, the Rare Beef Tacos with sriracha and lime was refreshing and the beef was juicy and tender. The typical messy-taco experience was avoided too because they were bite-size which was a great touch.
Rare Beef Tacos with sriracha and fresh lime
The Crab Mayonnaise Salad was delicious too. The mayonnaise was creamy and chilly and pairs terrifically with the fresh and crispy toasted sourdough.
Crab Mayonnaise Salad with toasted sour dough
On to the mains, the Truffled Pasta with shaved parmesan and rocket was too dry and bland for my liking, but the Curried Fish with coconut rice and onion salad had one of the best curry sauces I've tried around town. Amazingly aromatic with a perfect balance of coconut and curry flavours. The fish was not particularly fresh but the sauce more than made up for it.
Truffled Pasta with shaved parmesan and rocket
Curried Fish with coconut rice and onion salad
Other main options include the Clubhouse Burger and the Wonton Noodle Soup. For dessert, I recommend the Chocolate Creampot with fresh cream and a coffee cookie. The chocolate custard was wonderfully thick, silky and rich and happily satisfies the sweet tooth.
Chocolate Creampot with fresh cream and a coffee cookie
The physical aspects of the lounge are nothing extraordinary. You won't find yourself the sort of decadent luxury you see on travel shows touring multilevel first class lounges with full-service spas or your personal butler, but you can still spoil yourself with award-winning cocktails, service and dishes that rival top restaurants around town and a world of lag-free entertainment in your palms with their lightning speed wifi.